Summer has almost come to an end and your Junior High and High School preseason’s will be starting in only a few weeks. You might have sent out a summer workout plan for your players to follow, and you will soon find out who actually stuck to the program and who was on the couch playing video games all summer. As a player, the first couple of days are dreadful. No matter how much time you spent preparing, it still takes some time for your body to adjust to playing two-three times a day. As a coach, you have many decisions to make on how you are going to test which players came into camp fit.
If your players are not coming in fit, they are really wasting the team’s time. The time being spent doing fitness drills could be spent working on technical skills or playing. I’ve had a coach who wouldn’t even have us touch a ball on the first day and he would say “we might not be the most skilled team, but I will tell you this, we will be the most fit.” That I can tell you is not a good strategy and is a recipe to burn your players out. You need a good balance of fitness, technical drills, and open play.
So what are the different types of fitness tests that coaches are using today? Some of the more common ones include: timed distance runs, timed sprints, interval runs, lifting circuits, hill runs, agility ladders and the beep test. Which one is the best? There really isn’t a right or wrong answer, but rather, a balance of them all. There are many professional coaches that don’t even do timed tests, instead they allow their players to gain their fitness through playing. There is no better fitness than game fitness. However, with the way kids are these days, you need some kind of fitness because they are not willing to put in the work in the offseason.
What I recommend:
If you use the first couple of days for fitness only your players are going to lose focus and interest. What I would do is start off with the beep test. Have a certain level that you require your players to achieve. After the beep test, do your technical drills, and always end with open play. Whether it be short-sided, modified, or full field, it doesn’t really matter. Then, after you are done with the open play session, finish off with some kind of sprint/agility drill that is not timed. At this point, you will be able to see who is still working hard and pushing to the end.
Throughout the week start your first session with a different kind of fitness workout. If you mix up the different kind of fitness workouts, you keep your players guessing. They don’t get in the routine of running the same thing every day and they won’t get bored with it. One morning, do a distance run, another morning do an agility drill. Then, at the end of the week, run the beep test again and see what kind of improvements you get. As the season goes on, you can start to decrease or even eliminate your fitness workouts in your sessions. By the time your first competitive game comes around, your players should be in full game form and ready to go a full 90+ minutes.